TWO STATES OF DELUSION

In the 19th century Mark Twain said: “The more I get to know people, the better I like my dog.” In the 20th century the French existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre said: “Hell is other people.” Sartre also came to the conclusion that man’s belief in God and religion stemmed from an overwhelming fear and sense of abandonment if man believed he was alone in an empty universe without a supreme being. It’s as Christopher Hitchens said in his book, “God is Not Great,” God did not create man. It’s the other way around. Man created God.

People, you can’t live with them but you can’t live without them. Actually you can live without them if you’re willing to become a hermit. But that doesn’t sound like tons of fun either, and it also brings on its own set of unique delusions. All this is the long way around of getting to 2 polls that were taken in Alabama and Mississippi that caught my attention. No, they weren’t polls showing that weird, whacky Ricky Santorum would win those 2 states in the Republican primaries over Mitt the Lionhearted, and Newt the Fantasy Chaser. ( Mitt displayed his fearlessness yet again when he responded to a question from the press about Rush Limbaugh calling a Georgetown Univ. student a slut and prostitute, by saying, “those are not the words I would have used.” How much more of a hard-hitting rebuke can you get than that. As for Newt, about the only place where he wins the Republican nomination is on Fantasy Island.)

The poll that I’m referring to is the one where they asked the citizens of Alabama and Mississippi whether they believed that Barack Obama was a Christian. Only 15% believed that he was. Unbelievably, about 50% were convinced he was a Moslem. After all, what else could he be with a name like Barack Hussein Obama. (The other 35% were too busy keeping up with the Kardashians to give a damn, one way or another.) This despite Obama”s often repeated assertion that he was a Christian, and his often publicized church attendance over several decades. Now, understandably, you can’t get any deeper into the bible belt than those 2 southern states. But the hatred there of Obama, because he is perceived to be a dangerous, radical, socialist bent on destroying America, is such that a majority of people are willing to ignore reality and, once again, slip into that comfy state delusion. One more way in which irrationality becomes most people’s life-style.

After all if we were a rational society, would we conduct the political primary process in the manner that it’s conducted, with a hodgepodge of caucuses and elections starting way too early, and giving way too much influence to small states like Iowa or New Hampshire. In a rational society, there would be a primary election day sometime in June or July, where all 50 states would vote to select each party’s candidate to go forward into the general election. If we were a rational society. And does anyone understand why states have caucuses instead of outright elections. Near as I can make out, its because people have some sentimental belief that political business was conducted in that manner back in colonial days.

Nevada is a caucus state, and in 2008 the wife and I decided to attend the Democratic caucus for the party’s nomination between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. (Now we are older and wiser and will never make that mistake again.) Anyway we were told to report on a Saturday morning to a local school room where the caucus for our area would be held. Fortunately we arrived early enough to get seats in an enlarged but overcrowded school room where people kept pouring in. Soon the room became overheated and there was standing room only. Finally a moderator appeared (I have no idea how he was selected or who he even was), and announced that everybody who supported Obama go to the right side of the room, and all Clinton supporters to the left side. This would facilitate the counting of votes. I had intended to support Obama, but I was OK with Clinton too, and I happened to be seated on the Clinton side. We agreed that there was no way we were going to give up our seats to go stand in the too hot room, with the rabble on the Obama side. So we remained seated, and thus were counted as votes for Hillary. There you have the democratic process in action.

But the irrationality of the primary process pales in comparison to the way we select the most powerful man or woman in the world. As I’ve written before, every office in the land, from dog catcher to Senator or Governor is decided by a simple majority of votes cast. Not so for the presidency, as Al Gore found out, where the electoral college decides who the winner is. This system was written into the Constitution because of our founding fathers deep distrust of the judgements of the rabble that would be allowed to vote in future elections. Of course, they did have a valid point. On the average, about 50% of people eligible, fail to vote. Of the remaining 50% percent that do vote, maybe about half of that is somewhat conversant with issues at stake. The rest likely base their selections on radio or TV commercials. So perhaps 25% of the eligible population takes enough interest to know what they’re doing when voting for the President or Congress.

A third or fourth world banana republic country might legitimately raise the question: Is the United States ready for democracy?

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